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The second range of motivation theories are categorised under the heading of competence. These are the “I can!” theories. As previously stated, clear delineation is not possible, but this section will include self-perception, competence and social-cognitive theories.

Social-cognitive theory is essentially “an approach to understanding human cognition, action, motivation and emotion that assumes that people are capable of self-reflection and self-regulation and are active shapers of their environments rather than simply passive reactors to their environments” (Maddux 1993). Maddux outlines five central points to the approach:

  • People can symbolise events and have the capacity to anticipate consequences through forethought
  • This forethought guides behaviour through goals
  • People are self-reflective and this sets the stage for self-control of thought and behaviour
  • People can self-regulate through the selection and alteration of environmental conditions
  • Events, emotion, cognition and biology are mutually interacting influences

Contemporary self-esteem theory proposes that our global view of ourselves is underpinned by perceptions of specific domains of our lives. Richard Shavelson has suggested that there are four primary domains, academic, social, emotional and physical. All of these can be further subdivided, for example, academic could be split into subject areas, and physical could be split into physical ability and physical appearance.

It is proposed that everyday events are likely to affect more specific perceptions of self and, given time and perhaps effort, may rise up the hierarchy. Short term and trivial experiences are unlikely to affect global self-worth unless specific tactics are utilised to this end.

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